EU health ministers meet to discuss strategy to fight against bird flu

Europe's top health officials stepped up the battle to keep bird flu at bay Thursday, holding talks to map out a strategy against the deadly disease. Lethal strains have already been confirmed in Romania, Turkey and Russia.

Thursday's talks concerned anti-bird flu efforts and the coordination of a continent-wide response. Stockpiling antiviral medications, producing vaccines and instituting border checks were also topics that officials were discussing.

The disease has been spreading among birds in Asia, and Thailand's prime minister confirmed his country's 13th human fatality Thursday. Sixty-one people in Asia have died of the disease since 2003. No humans in Europe are known to have contracted it, although European nations have been scrambling to contain the virus and keep it from jumping to humans.

In Russia, veterinary officials protectively slaughtered fowl in a small village 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Moscow where the H5N1 strain was found, and Germany ordered farmers to keep poultry indoors as a precaution.

Liam Donaldson, Britain's chief medical officer, called the possibility of a human flu pandemic "public health enemy No. 1, and we are on the march against it."

Scientists say the best way to prevent a pandemic would be to stamp out bird flu as quickly as possible. Experts say migratory birds flying west from Asia appear to be spreading the deadly H5N1 strain to domestic European flocks. A.M.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team